Prevalent in the Mediterranean region, red wine vinegar is a staple in French, Italian and Spanish cuisine.
The vinegar has a variety of uses as a condiment, from its use in cooking to a vinaigrette for salad dressings.
It also contains compounds such as acetic acid, probiotics, and polyphenols, which all have positive effects on our health.
But what advantages does this vinegar have?
This article will explain precisely what red wine vinegar is, how its made, and the health benefits of using it.
What is Red Wine Vinegar?
Red wine vinegar starts life as red wine.
First, the wine is left to ferment until it sours and becomes acidic. At this stage, it is either bottled or left to age.
Producers usually bottle cheap, mass-produced products at an early stage, and they are low in quality.
In other words, highly acidic with a sharp and sour aftertaste.
The advantages of allowing the vinegar to age come down to taste; longer aging simply tastes better.
A decent aging time results in a thick and flavorful, yet mellow taste.
Similar to all fermented foods, red wine vinegar contains probiotic bacteria.
This advantage specifically relates to the “raw and unpasteurized” versions because pasteurization kills many of these “good” bugs.
Nutrition Facts and Chemical Composition
A 1-tablespoon serving of red wine vinegar has the following nutritional profile (1);
- Calories: 2.8
- Carbohydrate: 0
- Fat: 0
- Protein: 0
As you can see, the condiment contains virtually no calories or macronutrients.
Red wine vinegar also contains trace amounts of minerals including iron, magnesium, manganese, and potassium.
However, the values are extremely low, and we should view vinegar as a sub-optimal source of micronutrients.
There are various other compounds in red wine vinegar which may have some plus points for our overall health.
- Acetic acid: Like other vinegar, red wine vinegar contains acetic acid. Otherwise known as ethanoic acid, it results from the fermentation of ethanol by acetobacteraceae (bacteria in the acetic acid family). It has several proven health benefits (2, 3).
- Polyphenols: Red wine vinegar contains polyphenolic compounds such as flavonoids and phenolic acids. These antioxidants help fight against oxidative stress and lower inflammation.
Most people are aware of the potential benefits of red wine, but what about red wine vinegar?
First, there is some promising research supporting the benefits it may have on our body.
Most of these benefits—but not all—are associated with the acetic acid content, which is the main compound in all vinegar.
However, a lot of the health claims we can see are somewhat exaggerated.
Here’s what the research says.
1. Potential Weight Loss
Studies suggest that red wine vinegar may help with losing weight.
Firstly, animal studies show that acetic acid, a major constituent of vinegar, helps to suppress the accumulation of body fat.
This effect appears to be due to acetic acid up-regulating fatty acid oxidation (4).
Further research suggests acetic acid may enhance satiety and delay the release of the “hunger hormone” ghrelin. The mechanism through which it does this is by keeping food in the stomach for a longer time (5).
In real-world terms, these effects on weight loss are likely small.
2. Digestive Benefits
Historically, humans have long used various kinds of vinegar as a cure for digestive ailments.
In particular, there are claims that vinegar has benefits for digestive health by making the stomach more acidic.
The idea behind this is that it can purportedly help with issues like heartburn and indigestion for those with low stomach acid.
While there are many anecdotes on this, there is very little in the way of research, so there is not much evidence to go on.
On the positive side, raw and unpasteurized red wine vinegar contains a lot of probiotic bacteria (8).
Typical pasteurized vinegar does not contain probiotics, so look for ‘unpasteurized’ on the label.
3. Contains Potent Polyphenols
Red wine is full of health-protective polyphenolic compounds, and red wine vinegar is no different (11).
These polyphenols act as antioxidants in the body and comprise of various compounds such as tannins and anthocyanins.
It appears that they also help increase levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL cholesterol) in the body.
Systematic reviews show that red wine increases HDL levels in various trials. Although alcohol alone is known to increase HDL, non-alcoholic extracts of the polyphenols in wine have the same effect (12, 13, 14).
Therefore, the polyphenols in red wine vinegar likely play a positive role in improving the cholesterol profile.
Compared to the ‘white’ version, red wine vinegar has a higher antioxidant content. This fact is due to the higher polyphenol density of red grape skins.
4. May Help Reduce Blood Pressure
There are several studies which investigate red wine vinegar’s impact on blood pressure.
However, I couldn’t find any studies conducted on humans regarding blood pressure.
It’s worth remembering that results of animal studies do not always translate to humans, so we shouldn’t read too much into them.
5. Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
Blood sugar is one area where there is substantial evidence for the advantages of using red wine vinegar.
The primary component—acetic acid—exerts a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels.
Several studies show that;
- Vinegar helps lower blood sugar levels following a meal (17).
- Randomized crossover trials show that vinegar intake at bedtime decreases fasting blood sugar levels by 4-6% the next morning (18).
- A further randomized crossover trial indicates that small amounts of vinegar taken with carbohydrate lower the glycemic response (19).
- A recent randomized controlled trial demonstrates that when taken with a meal, vinegar increases muscle-glucose uptake, and decreases postprandial insulin and triglyceride levels (20).
6. Anti-Microbial Properties
Another positive aspect of red wine vinegar—and all vinegar—is that like coconut oil, it has anti-microbial properties.
There are various foodborne pathogens which can cause potentially serious health problems and illnesses.
- Clostridium botulinum
7. Increased Nutrient Absorption
Acetic acid can help improve the absorption of various essential minerals such as calcium and magnesium (27).
A meal containing a small amount of red wine vinegar may increase the amount of these nutrients your body absorbs.
Ways to Use Red Wine Vinegar
There are many uses of red wine vinegar and some of the most common ways include;
Typically, people use red wine vinegar to make a salad dressing (known as a vinaigrette).
Such vinaigrettes combine red wine vinegar with our oil of choice, salt, pepper, and a few seasonings.
Drink it Straight
People with interest in the potential health benefits of red wine vinegar often take it “straight.”
A tablespoon either in the morning, before bed, or with a meal is quite a common way to do it.
However, I certainly wouldn’t recommend this in regard to taste!
If you don’t like the idea of taking a shot of vinegar every morning, then perhaps making a reduction would be a better idea.
Make a Reduction
Making a red wine vinegar reduction involves bringing the vinegar to a boil and then simmering to reduce the water content.
The result is a thicker consistency sauce to use as a condiment with food.
It tastes particularly good with steak, chicken drumsticks, and salmon.
Whether you want to make a healthy homemade salad dressing with a vinaigrette, a reduction, or something else, there are plenty of delicious recipes.
Here are five of the best;
|Fresh Homemade Salsa||A real-food salsa made with;|
|Skinny Red Wine Tomato Vinaigrette||A juicy dressing containing;|
|Dijon Vinaigrette||A mustard-based dressing;|
|Super Easy Strawberry Vinaigrette||A naturally sweet recipe;|
|Roasted Tomato Vinaigrette||A nutrient-rich vinaigrette;|
Making Red Wine Vinegar
Interestingly, it’s possible (and very simple) to make red wine vinegar from the comfort of your own home.
To make your own vinegar from wine, all you need is a few ingredients;
- Red wine (important: make sure you like the taste of the wine – the vinegar will be the same flavor!)
- A ‘mother’: a slimy live bacterial culture that ferments ethanol – it is responsible for converting the wine into vinegar. This ‘mother’ is similar to the ‘scoby’ which we can use to make kombucha.
- Water: 1 cup of water per 2 cups of wine
- A clean ceramic or glass container
- Once you are ready to make the vinegar, combine the wine and water in a 2:1 ratio in your container.
- Next, add the mother into the container and then seal the top with the cheesecloth and a rubber band.
- Following this, it is a good idea to leave the mixture in a cool and dark place for at least six weeks. For a better tasting vinegar, around three months is optimal; check the mixture and give it a shake every week or so.
- When your vinegar is ready, you can easily make more in a quicker timeframe as the container will now be full of fermenting bacteria. To do this, just bottle the amount of vinegar you need for one week from the container and replace it with an equivalent amount of fresh wine. The new wine will be vinegar within about one week, and it’s possible to keep ‘topping up’ the vinegar in this way.
Where to Buy Red Wine Vinegar?
If you prefer the ready-made option, then it’s easy to find good quality vinegar.
You can buy red wine vinegar from almost anywhere, but there may be a lack of choice in general supermarket stores.
Health stores stock the vinegar, and you can find a broad range of unpasteurized, traditionally fermented options online.
Red wine vinegar is a healthful addition to any diet and has several potential health benefits.
However, it is not a miracle health booster and we should take some of the ‘superfood’ claims with a pinch of salt.
All in all, it is a useful addition to a healthy diet and a possible tool for helping with digestive health and blood sugar management.